Cedric Maxwell’s nickname Cornbread came from his college teammate who thought he looked like Jamaal Wilkes’ character Cornbread in the 1975 film Cornbread, Earl and Me. Maxwell did not like the nickname at first but his success in college led reporters to use the name in articles and it stuck.
Why Was Cedric Maxwell Called Cornbread?
Cedric Maxwell got the nickname Cornbread from his college teammate Melvin Watkins. Max and Melvin went to see the movie Cornbread, Earl and Me together.
The film, which I have to admit I’d never heard of, starred a young Laurence Fishburne and NBA champion Jamal Wilkes as a local basketball star trying to make it. Here is a brief, contemporary review from the NY Times.
In any case, Melvin thought his UNCC teammate Maxwell looked an awful lot like Cornbread from the film and started calling him that. It did not stick right away.
But when UNCC made it to the NIT and Maxwell was named MVP of the tournament, Melvin dropped the nickname to some reporters from New York. Once it was published in the papers, the name became permanent and Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell was born.
Where did Cedric Maxwell go to College?
Cornbread did not go to the same University of North Carolina as Michael Jordan. That university is in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In nearly all areas, most certainly including athletics, the UNC Chapel Hill is considered the more prestigious school.
Cedric Maxwell played for another state school in North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNCC). That school recently changed their name to just Charlotte to lessen confusion with Jordan and Vince Carter’s school, known nationally for their basketball history.
Cornbread Maxwell led the 49ers of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to their highest basketball heights. In 1977 he brought them to the Final Four, losing in the national semi-final game to eventual champion Marquette.
Cornbread did his part in the game shooting a typical-for-him 83% from the field, and leading the team in scoring and rebounding with 17 points and 12 boards.
You can see the brutal way UNCC lost the game below. Despite the brutal loss, Cornbread had quite a future ahead of him winning games, and titles, in the NBA.
Did they call Cedric Maxwell Cornbread in the NBA?
Cedric Maxwell, a 6’8” small forward, was called Cornbread throughout his NBA career. He played mostly for the Boston Celtics and was known for his trash talk and his winning.
Maxwell played on two losing Celtics teams before the arrival of the Hick From French Lick changed everything for Boston.
But Cornbread was not a passenger on those great Celtics teams.He led the NBA in field goal percentage twice.
He also won the NBA Finals MVP in 1981. Maxwell is one of only two Finals MVPs who are eligible who have not been selected for the Hall of Fame. The other is Chauncey Billups who is still on the ballot.
Maxwell did not win the Finals MVP in 1984, his second title year with the Celtics. But he did further his status as a Boston legend by telling his teammates to “climb on my back boys,” before the start of game 7 of the ‘84 NBA Finals.
“Climb on my back boys.”Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell
Maxwell said years later the quote is not quite accurate and the real version was not G rated. Cornbread went on to score 24 points in the Celtics 111-102 victory over the hated Lakers.
That was Maxwell’s last title with the Celtics. He got into a dispute with Red Auerbach over rehabbing a knee injury and was traded.
Cornbread was sent to the Clippers in a deal that brought the Celtics legend Bill Walton. That trade created what is often considered the greatest frontcourt in league history: Hall of Famers Walton, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.
The 1986 Celtics team featuring that frontcourt is in the conversation for the best team ever.
Where does Cedric Maxwell live now?
Cornbread mended fences with the Celtics organization and went on to become the radio analyst for the team. He is often called Max these days in place of Cornbread, though you still hear the name from time to time.
Maxwell has become one of the iconic Celtic voices in the tradition of Johnny Most and his former coach Tommy Heinhson. He has called games for the team for more than 25 years.
Personally, as a Celtics fan, I enjoy listening to him. He has a unique, fun style and I do believe he fits quite nicely in that tradition of Celtics voices like Most and Heinsohn. Neither of those announcers was polished per se but both were beloved by fans including me.
In the heart of the national lockdown in 2020, one of my favorite sportswriters, Chad Finn of the Boston Globe, interviewed Maxwell about his announcing career and about re-watching his old games at a time when no sports was happening.
In the interview, Max says many of the younger players don’t know him as Cornbread and don’t really know his playing past. They see him as the team’s announcer.
He tells a funny story of Jayson Tatum watching the Celtics/Lakers 30 for 30 and coming in the next day calling him Cornbread and saying “You were a bad man!”. That he was.
Summary: Cedric Maxwell’s Nickname
Cedric Maxwell became Cornbread after he and a college teammate at UNCC went to the movie Cornbread, Earl and Me. That teammate, Melvin Watkins, thought Maxwell looked like the character Cornbread in the movie. The name did not stick to Maxwell until Watkins fed it to reporters to use in articles reporting on the success of their UNCC 49ers basketball team.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.